How to Catch Tarpon: Fishing Tips For The Silver King

Kristian Ole

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Tarpons are one of the most popular fish to catch in saltwater. If you have a tarpon on your fishing list, be sure to experience a bumpy fishing ride. 

Catching a tarpon can be quite a thrill. This fish is big, strong, and can put up a heck of a fight. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s best to learn what you need to do to increase your chance of catching one. 

 I’ll discuss where to fish a tarpon, how to tackle the fish, and the technique to use. You’ll also learn how to fight the fish once you’ve got it on the line. So, read to the end to discover more!

Species Overview 

Common NamesTarpon, silver king, silverfish, silver sides, and sabalo
Latin NameMegalops Atlanticus 
SizeBetween 25 and 80 pounds; Adults tarpons can weigh up to 300 pounds 
Weight95 to 105Ibs 
Where to findSouth Florida; The Keys, The Gulf; Atlantic Coast  
Preferred seasonSpring and Summer
Best weatherWarm weather
TemperatureRange of 75 to 90ºF

Gear & Setup for Tarpon

Fishing LocationFlorida Keys; The flats; Canals; Bays, and Backwaters
TechniqueLive or dead bait, artificial lures
Best BaitPinfish, mullet, crabs
Best LuresLadyfish
Fishing rod length7ft
Fishing rod actionMedium-heavy rod
KnotsPalomar knot
Fishing lineMonofilament fishing line
ReelSpinning reel

Fight to Expect from Tarpon

tarpon fish jumping out of the water
Image: ftlaudgirl, depositphotos

Tarpons aren’t called the silver king for nothing. They are one of the most prized game fish in the world. If you’re lucky enough to hook one, you’re in for the fight of your life. 

These fish are powerful and have been known to jump out of the water and perform acrobatic flips. They will test your strength, stamina, and patience. However, it will all be worth it when you finally land one of these magnificent creatures. 

Take extreme care to avoid dragging the fish to early death. If anything, I’ll advise you to wear gloves and swiftly hold the fish beneath its belly and head.

So how do you get to the point of holding a tarpon? I’ll begin by discussing the ideal tackle to implement. 

Tackle for Tarpon

The Rod

Regarding tarpon fishing, having the right rod can make all the difference. A medium-heavy action rod is a must for anglers looking to land a big one. 

So, what exactly makes the ideal tarpon rod? For starters, the rod should:

  • Be made of strong material. It should be one that can handle a lot of weight.
  • Be able to handle a lot of lines. Tarpons can easily take off with a lot of line on their initial run.
  • Have a good amount of flex to it. This will help to tire out the fish during the fight.
  • Be comfortable to use. After all, you’ll spend a lot of time holding it during a fight. A good grip is essential, as is a comfortable handle.

Given the above factors, Bigwater Spinning Fishing Rod can come in handy. This device is designed for lengthy big water fishing. Plus, it’s a rod-and-reel combo

The Reel

A heavy-duty reel is a must if you’re looking for the best shot when fishing a tarpon.

There are a few different types of reels that you can use for tarpon fishing. However, the most popular ones are spinning reels.

Penn Spinfisher VI Spinning Fishing Reel is an excellent option for tarpon fishing. It’s designed for big saltwater fish and produces the power you need for big game fishing. 

Also, there are other conventional model reels useful in baitcasting.

Read our full review of the best deep-sea fishing reels.

The Line

You can’t afford to miss landing a tarpon with a sturdy fishing line. A line that can handle an adult tarpon’s weight and strength is the game changer here. For this reason, I would go for Shaddock Monofilament Fishing Line anytime. 

The Shaddock fishing line is made of heavy-duty material and resists twists. This provides superior knots to fish even the heaviest tarpon. 

Where to Catch Tarpon 

Tarpons can be found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world. There are different spots where you can have success catching tarpon. 

Here are the possible locations:

  • Popular spots are areas where the water is rippling or choppy. Tarpons are often found near the surface
  • Deeper channels near the coast 
  • Open waters like the Gulf of Mexico
  • Near the shore, in bays and inlets

If you’re looking to catch a tarpon in the United States, your best bet is to head to South Florida or the Keys. Tarpons are a popular fish in these areas, and there are plenty of spots where they can be found.

To increase your chances of success, it’s a good idea to fish in warm areas with plenty of baitfish. Tarpons are predators, so they’re always looking for an easy meal. If you can find a school of baitfish, chances are there will be a tarpon or two nearby.

When it comes to fishing techniques, you’ll need to use something that can get the fish’s attention.

Fishing Techniques for Tarpon

PRO TIP

If you’re looking to land a tarpon, here’s what you need to keep in mind:

  • Use a heavier line than you would for other fish. Tarpons are known for their strong runs, so you’ll need a powerful line to handle the pressure. 
  • Use a large, baitfish-style lure. Tarpons are predators, and they’ll be attracted to a lure that looks like a potential meal.
  • Be prepared for a long fight. Tarpons are powerful fish. They won’t go down easily after you catch them. 

Best of luck landing a tarpon on your next fishing trip!

Bait

tarpon jumping
Image: diegograndi, depositphotos

To catch a tarpon, anglers typically use live bait.

Tarpons are attracted to baitfish, so common baitfish I tend to use are:

  • Mullet
  • Herring
  • Pinfish

When using live bait, it’s vital to use a circle hook to avoid gut-hooking the fish.

Lure

One of the most popular lures is the ladyfish, as tarpon are attracted to the movement and smell of their prey. 

Another effective lure is the artificial baitfish. The baitfish imitates the appearance and movement of a live baitfish. Ensure you hook it through the nose so it swims naturally. 

Jigging

When jigging, you can use Shrimp Lobster Claw Artificial Lure. This lure provides ultra-realistic creeping movements that can attract predators like tarpon. Make sure to keep your line tight.

You’ll want to work the lure up and down in the water, making short, quick jerks. This technique is best used in areas where tarpons are known to congregate. Such areas include the keys, coastal waters, estuaries, and lagoons.

Trolling

Trolling for tarpon is a great way to cover a lot of water and find fish. 

When trolling, you can use a variety of baits and lures to attract tarpon. Some popular baits include:

  • Live baitfish
  • Crabs
  • Shrimp 

The type of fishing rod and reel you use also matter when trolling for tarpon. Tarpons are large, powerful fish, so you’ll need a reel with a good drag system to handle them. It would help if you also used a leader of at least 50 pounds to prevent the fish from breaking your line.

Read more on how to tie a fly line leader and tippet!

kristian-ole-roerbye-fishingkris

About Kristian Ole

Kristian Ole Rørbye, a marine biologist and seasoned angler, shares his fishing adventures and expertise on FishingKris. Join him as he explores the world's waters, one cast at a time.

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